Mister Herbert Hoover
Says that now's the time to buy
So let's have another cup o' coffee
And let's have another piece o' pie!
Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee,
Can't help but wonder
what's happening to my companions
Are they lost or are they found,
have they counted the cost
it'll take to bring down
All their earthly principles
they're gonna have to abandon?
--Slow Train, Bob Dylan
It was terribly dangerous
to let your thoughts wander
when you were in any public place
or within range of a telescreen.
The smallest thing could give you away.
--1984, George Orwell
Ranger is abrupt and direct, but strives not to be rude. This often takes great effort.
On the road last week, and as often happens when taken out of one's comfort zone, he noticed a new decline in civility all 'round. There were very few exceptional moments to compensate for the overall comedown in courtesy.
All service industries seemed to be manned primarily by people with surly attitudes who take their jobs with a grudge and a chip on their shoulders. The companies -- everyone from Verizon to airlines to the U.S. Postal Service -- have stripped their personnel to a minimum, and the tension and resentment is palpable.
If one has a problem, service from a real online representative is almost non-existent. Police are smart-mouthed and antagonistic, as they and we know their job is now to fill the city's coffers.
In restaurants one is barraged by loud and obnoxious cell phone conversations, forgetting the onslaught from the multiple televisions and stereos imposed by the businesses themselves. It is as though it is all engineered to stop conversation. If there is conversation at a table, it is most likely not with the individual's seatmates but rather, his Blackberry.
The same is true in theaters and shows, where audience members text and answer cell phones incessantly. The once-soothing escape into the dark of the anonymous theater is now denied by a sea of incandescent lights eerily illuminating the wired user's faces.
There is a definite lack of courtesy in our society, and it overflows to politics, network news and every aspect of our daily lives. It is an insidious comedown.
How have we gotten to this point? Will courtesy return?